Many companies have begun taking the advantage of potential new hires in what have come to be known as unpaid working interviews.
In comparison to decades ago, it seems like interviewing for a job has gotten measurably more difficult. An anecdote that has been percolating for years attests to this observation. Just ask any person who came of age and was working prior to the 1980s or 1990s. These people will likely not hesitate to tell you that they were hired on the spot for their jobs after one interview. Hearing such sentiments now, unfortunately, are almost laughable. Even for minimum wage jobs, there is almost always more than one interview involved, and it’s even less likely for a person to find out that they are hired on the same day. The culture surrounding new hires has shifted and it is continuing to do so. However, considering recent trends, it’s shifting in an outright unethical direction. Many companies are now asking candidates to do work before they are hired in what is now being referred to as working interviews.
One UK resident recounted her harrowing working interview experience to the BBC. The resident explained that she had applied for an upper role at a trend-forecasting company. She detailed that in the first interview the expectation was set that the whole process would be quite lengthy. After making it through three rounds of interviews she was given an un-paid task to complete in order to prove her competency and skill. She enthusiastically completed the task and delivered a 25-page-long research write-up. After being heavily questioned regarding the write-up she left with the promise that she would hear from the company in regards to their decision in a few days. She never heard from them nor was she ever paid for her efforts. The company had effectively ghosted her after she put all her time and effort into something she has been tasked to do.
More disturbing than the working interview situation outlined above, is the fact that this is not an uncommon occurrence. Countless people have gone on record detailing times when they had put in extensive time and effort into work for companies that they were merely interviewing for. While it is reasonable for companies to ask potential new hires to prove that they can do the work, especially for more senior roles, it is unreasonable for this work to go unpaid. “Asking people to complete a test project or having them come in for a working interview isn’t unethical in itself – the problem lies in not paying candidates,” said Latesha Byrd, who is the CEO of North Carolina-based talent company Perfeqta. More unfortunate still is that this trend is visible across all industries.
It’s clear that an easily identifiable problem has arisen in terms of how interviews have evolved. There are just so many ethical fallacies surrounding working interviews. Thus, the question then becomes: Is there a solution? To be honest, in order for the current climate around interviews to shift, there needs to be a collective effort to combat it. Still, there are things that job seekers can do to protect themselves. The number one thing that people can do in order to prevent becoming the subject of an unpaid working interview is to set expectations upfront. Make it clear to a prospective employer that you know your worth and that you will under no circumstances work for free regardless if you end up with the job or not.